Could 44 Scotland Street inspire Scots first ever win against the All Blacks?

Alexander McCall Smith at the book festival
Alexander McCall Smith at the book festival
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It was a compelling, if somewhat comedic, vision of a Scottish sporting miracle – conjured up by one of the nation’s leading authors for the pages of The Scotsman.

But with the hours counting down to Scotland’s first encounter with the All Blacks since he imagined their victory at Murrayfield, Alexander McCall Smith has insisted the Scots can secure their first ever win against the New Zealand, ending a 112-year wait for victory.

The New Zealanders’ track record of avoiding defeat against the Scots did not seem to hamper the author’s imagination running riot in an instalment of his 44 Scotland Street series in The Scotsman back in May.

The episode charted the emotional rollercoaster enjoyed by child prodigy Bertie Pollock and his friend Ranald “Braveheart” Macpherson when they are taken to see Scotland face the All Blacks at Murrayfield by the latter’s father, Stuart.

Setting the scene for the encounter, McCall Smith described the “solemn moment” of the singing of Murrayfield anthem Flower of Scotland.

He wrote: “That the song referred to the 14th century was neither here nor there: for many the 14th century was but yesterday, and the New Zealanders should bear that in mind. New Zealand responded, as they always do, with their haka, the Maori challenge with all its curious gestures – the rolling of eyes, the sticking out of tongues, and the general presentation of a less than welcoming demeanour.”

Describing the immediate aftermath of a fictional 13-0 victory, the author described how the “defeated New Zealanders, a dispirited, diminished band of men, stood despondent on the pitch”.

He wrote: “The noble Scotsmen, generous in victory, shook hands and offered them such condolences as good sportsmen accord to those they have vanquished.”

Speaking from the United States, where he is on tour, he said: “My view is that one has to be confident. When I wrote that chapter of 44 Scotland Street I thought: ‘Why not have confidence in Scotland?’

“The important thing about fiction is that it deals with possibilities. Even if it is not probable, it is perfectly possible that what I foresaw will come to pass. I felt that Bertie had had a tough existence with his pushy mother and I thought a trip to Murrayfield would a delight for him. I thought to myself: ‘why not add the icing on the cake and make it a real dream come true?’

“Writing is often a matter of wish fulfilment. I don’t think that you have to be a particularly clever psychologist to understand that fiction is often a statement of the author’s wishes. I write a lot of fiction in those terms.

“One has to remember that we are dealing with the realms of possibility here. It may be that the All Blacks will be intimidated by Scottish confidence. On the other hand, they may not.

“But I very much hope that the team has had the opportunity to read this particular chapter before the match. I know that the team are very keen readers. I would hope that it would enable them to withstand the haka.”